Another Pin Set to Fall
Terry Sawchuk played his final season with the New York Rangers, managing one final shutout, his 103rd, during the 1969-70 campaign, two years before Martin Brodeur was born.
Sawchuk's mark remained untouched for 40 seasons, a remarkable length of time for any record in sports that isn't equivalent to Joe DiMaggio's apparently unbreakable 56-game hit streak.
Now Brodeur has tied Sawchuk's mark, and will pass it sometime in the coming weeks. The return of Jacques Lemaire to the Devils probably sealed the fate of Sawchuk's record, with the Devils once more becoming a lock-down, defence first-second-and-third team. Fittingly, Brodeur tied the record against Buffalo while facing only 22 shots.
But he made those 22 saves, and clearly there is an art to the shutout, an ability to maintain focus in games already won, an unwillingness to give even an inch to the game's best shooters.
The question is, how high will Brodeur now set the bar? With two more years to go on his current contract, it's pretty easy to see him getting up to 112 shutouts, maybe 115.
Would he retire then? Hard to see that. He loves the game too much, revels in the lifestyle, the pace, the competition. Morever, the Devils have no successor. They've never really bothered to develop one.
So maybe by the end of the day he plays four more seasons and gets to 120 shutouts. Possible, no?
To put that in perspective, 30-year-old Roberto Luongo currently has 48 shutouts. If Brodeur gets to 120, Luongo would have to average more than seven shutouts a season for the next decade just to catch the Devils goalie.
It could happen. But probably won't.
Brodeur owns the all-time wins record (575) and needs five more appearances to break Patrick Roy's mark for all-time appearances (1,029).
His strong play after a difficult season a year ago, which included a lengthy layoff due to a bicep injury and a stunning playoff ouster at the hands of Carolina, sets up what will be a fascinating scenario for Mike Babcock and Team Canada at the Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Brodeur, barring injury, will be in net for the Games opener against Norway on Feb. 16th. Luongo might get the second match against the Swiss, a country that beat Canada in Torino in '06.
The comes a game against the U.S., and then the quarterfinals on the 24th. So while it might in theory be reasonable to say Babcock should just go with the hot hand, there won't be time to figure out who that hot hand will be.
And let's say Brodeur falters on Feb. 21st against the U.S. Would it be practical to then turn to Luongo for all the marbles in the quarters?
And what about Marc-Andre Fleury, the Stanley Cup champion goalie?